Des Moines Ties to Tony Awards

Apr 29, 2014

This week in New York City, nominations for the 68th Annual Tony Awards were announced.  In a few days around 870 voters across the country will receive ballots to determine this year’s winners, but only one will be sent to Iowa. 

Jeff Chelesvig is the CEO of Des Moines Performing Arts, which includes the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines, where touring versions of Broadway musicals are presented.  Chelesvig has been a Tony voter for 18 years and says for a musical to be eligible for a Tony award, the producers must formally invite voters to come see the shows in New York.

One of the shows he saw in the last year is an adaptation of Robert James Waller’s novel “The Bridges of Madison County”. It’s nominated in four categories, including Best Original Score.   Des Moines Performing Arts is part of The Independent Presenters Network, which invested in “The Bridges of Madison County”. Chelesvig says the decision to put money in a musical where the story is set in Iowa was an easy choice.  “It has a real strong heart, it has two wonderful leads in Steven Pasquale and Kelli O’Hara and the score is just a stunning, stunning… it’s a beautiful, beautiful music and Jason Robert Brown is a tremendous theatrical composer.”

They also invested in the musical “If/Then” which received two nominations, including Actress in a Leading Role for Idina Menzel.  These musicals aren’t nominated in a category where The Independent Presenters Network can win an award as producers, but last year was a different story.  During the 2013 awards, Chelesvig joined dozens of producers and cast members on stage during the broadcast as “Pippin” won the award for Outstanding Revival of a Musical.  They also were among the producers for “Kinky Boots” that won a Tony for Best Musical.

On the stage of the Civic Center, Des Moines Performing CEO, Jeff Chelesvig announces the shows that will be part of the 2014 - 2015 Broadway series.
Credit Photo by John Pemble

Even though Chelesvig won’t be making a trip to the stage this year, he will be attending the ceremony but before he leaves for New York, he needs to decide how he is going to fill out this year’s ballot. “We have until the Friday before the actual telecast of the Tony awards to mail that ballot in or get it to Price Waterhouse.  I always overnight mine.  I wait until the absolute last second I don’t know why I do that but I just do. And then that’s it. And then we wait and see.”

The 68th Tony Awards will be held June 8th at Radio City Music Hall.